By JOHN T. WARD
If there was a hot seat at the Red Bank Board of Education candidate’s night Thursday, Michael Clancy was in it.
The 33-year-old former offensive lineman at Rutgers was on the defensive at several points during the 90-minute event, pressed to explain his decision to stay in the race even though, according to one opponent, he wouldn’t be able to recite a truthful the oath of office should he be elected November 3.
Clancy was also alone among the six candidates for three, three-year terms in his criticism of the quality of education provided by the two-school district. That drew pointed rebukes from all but one other candidate, and the fifth — Clancy running mate Richard Stout — spoke favorably about the schools. In his concluding statement, Clancy, too, had praise for the schools.
The three incumbents — Carrie Ludwikowski, Ann Roseman and Frederick Stone — as well as challengers Clancy, Stout and Irwin Katz, faced off in the middle school auditorium at a PTO-sponsored event that drew an unusually large crowd of about 50 spectators. It was also a largely collegial event, with Katz and Stout amply praising the incumbents without a word of disparagement.
The most contentious issues involved Clancy: his residency, the role of partisanship in his and Stout’s candidacy, and his criticisms of the board’s record.
Asked by moderator Sharon Steinhorn of the League of Women Voters of Monmouth County if he met the legal requirement to serve on the board, Clancy said he had made a “blunder” when he signed a notarized ballot application in July attesting that he will have lived in the borough for at least a year by the time of the November 3 election. Clancy has previously acknowledged that he moved to town in January of this year.
In his answer, Clancy said he had spoken with counsel, who told him the residency requirement was “unconstitutional and unenforceable, so I would say I meet all of the qualifications.”
“This is new to me,” he continued, ” so you’ll have to decide if 60 days” of residency shortage make a difference, he said, noting that he’d been dealing for eight years with Red Bank clients in his work as a medical device salesman.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Clancy, if you do get elected you won’t be able to sit on the board, because you were here just seven months when you signed that document, and that’s the truth,” said Katz. “I don’t know what lawyer told you otherwise. I hope you didn’t pay him.”
Roseman noted that the oath of office requires all winners to “solemnly swear” that they met all the qualifications, which are, according to this ballot petition from the Monmouth County Clerk’s office:
Katz, Ludwikowski, Roseman and Stone also leveled either direct or indirect criticism at Clancy and Stout for injecting partisan politics into the race, though both disavowed partisanship.
Katz repeated criticisms, previously aired in a redbankgreen article, contending his name had been misappropriated by the local Republican party. Stone said he was “appalled by the disdain for the law” that Clancy’s candidacy, and Republican attacks on the incumbents leveled in social media, represented.
Ludwikowski and Roseman also said they were nonpartisan, with Roseman adding that in more than nine years on the board, “there’s never been a whiff of party affiliation” about her service. “It’s like I’m reading about somebody else,” she said.
“I run as a fiscal conservative with no party backing,” Clancy said.
Afterward, borough Republican Party Chairman Sean DiSomma sent redbankgreen this statement:
Tonight at the school board debate, we saw a vicious and coordinated attack by local Democrat party and the NJEA against a young man who is giving his time and effort to try to make his town a better place for children. This is how far they’ll stoop to protect their political candidates Fred Stone, Ann Rosenman and Carrie Ludikowski. Really shocking display. They tried it at the council debate and they’re trying it again tonight. Red Bank is too smart for these games. 12% tax increases and failing schools.